Day 83 – The WHO mask post

Much excitement online about this FB post from the WHO.

Here’s the image that came with it:

Apparently, this now means that [fictitious couple but we’ve all met them] Justin Whitebru and his obnoxious wife Karen are free to breathe all over everyone while they jog on the Sea Point Prom with their friends before breathing all over everyone at the coffee shop around the corner.

Actually no. Let’s unpack this for Justin, Karen et al. (Al is particularly keen to learn more.)

First off, a cartoon on the WHO Facebook page does not trump the local rules and regulations, which very clearly state:

And since the Constantia GreenBelt, the Sea Point Prom and all other public places where you might choose to exercise… are public places, that’s immediately game over for Justin and his “quick farve kay” buddies.

Let’s just summarise what we’ve learnt so far:

It doesn’t matter what you read on Facebook about not wearing masks while exercising, nor the authority of who posted it. The Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert level 3 during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa state that you must wear a cloth facemask covering your mouth and nose while you are in a public place. 

Thanks for reading.

And because we’re clearly done here I should end it now, but like an irritating shopping channel, wait… there’s more!

Because I know that local rules and regulations don’t cut it for most people around here.

So here are some more words about this:

The main reason that we are required to wear masks when out and about is not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us. No, sure, I know you know you don’t have the virus, Susan, because you washed your hands last Tuesday and you’ve been taking your supplements and all, but the fact is that you can be infectious while having absolutely no symptoms.

In fact, that’s one of the major problems we face in trying to overcome this pandemic.

Wearing a mask while you’re having your jog means that you are much less likely to spread the virus to other people. It’s been shown that your trail of aerosol droplets is likely to be far larger while you are running or cycling than if you were standing still or walking, and if you do have the virus, those droplets are likely to be full of it , just hanging around waiting for the next person to walk or run through it. Wearing a mask makes this cloud of nastiness much smaller.

Add to that the fact that we know that activities which involve breathing more deeply: singing, shouting… er… running and cycling, also tend to release more virus from an infected individual.
And that “one meter” that the WHO graphic suggests really isn’t going to help a great deal.

Thus, aside from being the law, mask wearing is also a moral obligation to protect the people you are running past. (Did you bring your morals with you today, Tamara?)

So that’s why you should wear a mask while exercising.
But let’s review the two main reasons that the WHO mentions above as to why you should NOT wear a mask while exercising.

1. “It makes it difficult to breathe” – Aww. Diddums.

“If you think that running with a mask on makes it difficult to breathe, you should try having Covid-19.”

Read the stuff I wrote above and get over yourself.

2. “It gets sweaty and promotes the growth of microorganisms” – wut?

Well sure, it will get sweaty and then you’ll simply wash it when you get home and it will be clean and ready to use again.

Yes, just like you do with your clothes.

If you don’t wash your mask when you’ve been wearing it (for whatever activity, but especially exercise), it will get nasty. If you don’t wash your clothes when you’ve been wearing them (for whatever activity, but especially exercise), they will get nasty.

You wouldn’t wear your running kit for n days in a row without washing it (although this may assist with social distancing), so don’t do it with your mask. And if you still want to try and apply this weird and feeble excuse for your not wearing a mask, then please also choose to run naked.

(But also, please don’t.)

The W in WHO stands for World, which means that they are trying to talk to almost 8 billion hugely diverse people in hugely diverse communities and situations around the planet about these things.

One size will not fit all.

I’m willing to accept that if you are dancing alone in the alpine meadows of Austria…

…you are less likely to infect anyone than if you are running through the heaving streets of downtown Manhattan; that if you are deep in the Patagonian wilderness vibing to your PsyTrance with only your camper van for company, you’re not going to spread the virus like you might if you were singing opera in a busy New Delhi marketplace. (We’ve all done it.)

And of course, the WHO can’t cover each and every individual situation. I do understand that. And for Maria, pictured above, mask wearing probably isn’t necessary. She can breathe easy and not get a sweaty face. But Maria is all on her own with just the meadow flora and mountain peaks for company, and first-world Austria is well past their peak of Covid-19 infections.

It’s not Cape Town.

And no matter what you may feel about the integrity and authority of the SA Government, and the WHO, scientifically speaking, the reasons given by the SA Government for wearing a mask while exercising are very good. The ones supplied by the WHO for not wearing a mask are frankly nonsensical.

So: if you’re exercising (or doing anything else), in South Africa right now – YOU NEED TO WEAR A MASK.

End of.